Angela Wong is a digital artist for modern media. (Storytelling is no longer limited to films and television series.) From short Instagram videos to reality TV shows on Ch4SD to regional news on NBC San Diego, she's created content for it all - with story and production quality always in mind. She received her BS in Cinema Production from Ithaca College in 2012 and now resides in San Diego. Current productions include Senior Savers, Property Guys, and Win This Listing and San Diego Eats & Drinks (the latter two air on Channel 4 San Diego).
1. When did your dream of becoming a filmmaker begin and how did you get started as an editor?
My dreams of becoming a filmmaker started with a, let’s call it “low budget” television production class in late high school. Taught by no non-sense Mike Howard, our class worked every part of production; writing basic scripts to filming to editing. We didn’t have much in the way of cameras (you often had to use your parents own camcorders) and just a few editing computers with Premiere Pro but regardless, I was absolutely hooked.
2. Tell us a little about the reality TV shows you have worked on and the process and experience. Is there a favorite and why?
The reality shows I’ve produced and edited have all been in the real estate space thus far. The fun thing about it is that real estate encompasses a surprisingly large number of things from physical demolition or repair of homes; emotional stress from moving; and genuine moments of levity and friendship.
The story of each episode all generally follow the natural narrative of how these real estate agents go about their work/process. However, there are times where we have to recreate scenes because of logistics. Having a good working relationship between crew and hosts and being flexible on all fronts is what makes the overall storytelling process a lot smoother and easier in post-production.
My favorite show so far is called Senior Savers - we just wrapped on production and I’m about to begin editing soon. It’s a show about helping senior citizens move out of their homes and into a senior community that better suits their needs as aging adults. This show has been my favorite because the topic is generally swept under the rug and the hosts do a great job shedding light on the overall experience of the transition. The show also provides lots of advice and resources for viewers.
3. What has been your greatest achievement as a filmmaker so far?
Still being in this industry is my greatest achievement. I almost quit. And heavily considered joining the police academy crazily enough. Seriously. It’s a tough industry. There are SO many talented people in this field it’s daunting sometimes. What’s also incredibly frustrating is getting hired to make something truly mediocre. Jobs that like break my heart and they’re more common than I would like to admit. And sometimes, you have to approach some gigs as just a job. But it’s other creative people that keeps me going.
I believe you have to earn the title, “artist.” And before, I used to think making that one big, break-out film would make me one. Ultimately, you have to define for yourself what makes an “artist.” But when I meet creative people like painter/performance artist, Raymond Lafferty, I realize what a true artist is: it’s someone who is committed to making art their whole life. He spends hours upon hours of his days working on a single canvas. Extrapolate that to all the paintings he’s ever done, he’s spent entire chunks of his life over his paintings… that is what’s truly remarkable to me. Dedicating your life to your art form.
I don’t feel I’m ready to bestow myself the title of artist but… maybe someday, when I’m gray and old and still squinting at the monitor to check for focus, I will.
4. Tell us a little about the process and the experience of working on regional news for NBC.
I was a story producer for NBC San Diego’s weekend morning news show. Honestly, I conned my way into that job. I had only a little bit of journalism background (from a few writing classes in college) but I could edit fast - and in the news industry, you have to be FAST. I worked there for almost two years, waking up around 3:30AM, driving 85-90 mph on dark, empty freeways and helping with the rest of the morning crew edit a show from 4:00 AM till 7:00 AM when it aired.
It was eye-opening seeing how such a large media corporation functioned and how these real journalists worked: around the clock, with very little sleep and sticking around to continue reporting when something was breaking (generally a tragedy of some kind). But it was a strange dichotomy; seeing people work incredibly hard to report accurate information yet be forced to crunch it out as soon as humanly possible when, even the police didn’t have all the facts yet.
I ultimately decided it wasn’t for me but at least I got to see the belly of the news beast.
5. San Diego is becoming quite the film hub. How do you find the industry there with LA being so close?
I think San Diego still has a ways to go before it can really “compete” with LA. Groovy Like a Movie, one of the best known production houses here to my knowledge, closed awhile back. And while I think this is a loss for San Diego and sad news for production companies in general, there are some VERY enthusiastic filmmakers alive and kicking in San Diego - like Natalie Lauer. You’ll probably hear about her soon enough.
If you are going to shoot a film in San Diego, the entire community is very “chill” and prices for city permits are still totally affordable. I’m sure if you went overtime shooting on location in San Diego, you won’t get shooed away like New York City police might. Plus, it’s incredibly easy to grab a beer with your cast and crew after your shoot… in literally any part of town.
6. How do you view modern media and where do you see it going? Are there new trends that you find interesting and would like to pursue?
YouTube has completely changed the game for filmmakers and artists. You don’t have to move to LA and become a waitress and try to meet producers in sketchy offices. Professional vloggers like Casey Neistat have paved a completely new path for emerging filmmakers. You can create work, put it out for the world to see and potentially make a living from it. Neistat has also gone on to make a television show for HBO and do massive marketing campaigns for Nike. It’s absolutely mental, especially if you think back to the golden era of Hollywood where only the rich could fund those behemoth films. Now anyone can grab a camera, do some basic editing and upload it to YouTube. Democratized storytelling. Exciting times!
7. What has been the greatest lesson you've learned during this journey?
Greatest lessons: humility and self-improvement. I left college feeling incredibly self-confident (which is great because I didn’t have much before that) but I was also narrow minded and often looked down upon anything that wasn’t “cinema.” I thought Hollywood was the only way to go. Today, I’ll watch professional vloggers like Peter McKinnon and Chris Hua for their advice on how to improve my video and photos and editing. They have taught me things that I missed out on in film school or just flat out didn’t know. These guys are extremely talented and make a living shooting commercials and photos for big brands too. There’s no one way to make a living and develop a career in this industry. And that should really excite you.
8. Where do you hope to see yourself in five years’ time?
I hope to have my own production company soon and within five years, have it be fairly established in southern California for business marketing and commercial film production. I really want a small, nimble team of creatives working together, creating work that we can all get excited about. I’m already picturing a small but fun, open office (to keep overhead costs low) and creatives financially happy.
I wonder if there’s a producer/production company owner reading this and laughing at my idealism… but I believe Puccini’s idea of the noble, starving artist should be left in the past. I also have a few personal projects that I’m starting up - podcasts, YouTube series, etc. I’d like to see those come to fruition and flourish in the coming years.
9. What words of advice would you like to pass along to someone just starting out in the film industry?
Never stop learning. Make yourself as useful as possible on set. Trust in the process.